Bank of America Online and Mobile Banking Review plus Merrill Edge 2011
Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) is one of the largest banks or financial services in the world. With current market capitalization of 110 billion, Bank of America is rank fifth after HSBC Holding, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo & Co and Citigroup in market cap. I have been banking with Bank of America since 2002. I especially like it vast and diverse banking networks. Bank of America provides many different financial services such as checking account, saving account, brokerage account, credit card, mortgage loans, insurance and more. It also offer and online banking and mobile banking option for 24 hours and 7 days a week.
Bank of America, or BofA, was founded in 1874. The current headquarter is located at Charlotte, NC, USA. As part of US bank network, Bank of America banking account is insured by FDIC up to $250,000 per account.
Products or Services
B of A offers 5 main products / services for personal account:
1. Banking services
The main banking services include checking account, savings & certificate of deposit (CD), student banking, online banking, mobile and text banking, Add It Up Cash Back and Keep the Change.
2. Borrowing services
For borrowing services, it includes credit card, mortgage loan, refinance, home equity loan and auto loans.
3. Investing services
With the integration of Merrill Lynch Investment to Bank of American Investment division, Bank of America can provide various different services such as Merrill Edge Self-directed Investing, Merrill Edge Advisory Center, Merrill Edge Wealth Management and IRA.
4. Protect or Insurance services
Bank of America also has diverse insurance department such as Home insurance, renter insurance, Auto insurance (car insurance), Life insurance, Health Savings Accounts (HSA), Identity Theft Protection, and Credit Protection.
5. Plan services
With the current crisis, customer may need various plans to prepare for future such as retirement center, student center, car research center, real estate center and financial solutions.
Advantages & Disadvantages
Pros of Bank of America
- One of the established financial institutions
- High customer satisfaction and great customer service
- Convenient and there is no fee for more than 18,000 ATMs and various branches
- Free online checking with no minimum balance such as ebanking & MyAccess
- Free online money-management software
- Easy to use online banking services
Wide selection of credit cards with no annual fee
Cons of Bank of America
- Phone support is not 24/7
- There are fees for using other banks' ATMs
- There is no interest on checking account
- Low interest on savings account
- Too big of financial institution
- Expensive service fees
Recent Merger and Acquisition
Bank of America involved in various mergers until now. The latest mergers are:
- FleetBoston Financial in 2004 for $47 billion
- MBNA credit card in 2006 for $35 billion. Currently known as FIA Card Services
- The United States Trust Company in 2007 for $3.3 billion
- LaSalle Bank Corporation in 2007 for $21 billion
- Countrywide Financial in 2008 for $4.2 billion
- Merrill Lynch in 2009 for $50 billion
Bank of America Online Account
There is no fee for Online Banking when you have a Bank of America account. To access the Bank of America online account, you will need:
- Laptop or desktop computer with online capability
- The supported Operating System (OS) are: Windows 98, NT, 2000, ME, XP, Vista or Win 7 system and Macintosh using OS 10.x
- The supported web browsers are: Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.0 and higher, Firefox 3 and higher, and Chrome 3.0 and higher
- Support 128 bit ssl security encryption protection
- You have Online ID and pass code to do any e-financial transaction
Bank of America Online BankingClick thumbnail to view full-size
B of A Checking Account
There are 4 main Bank of America checking accounts:
- eBanking Checking account - $25 minimum initial deposit, no minimum balance requirement, include Keep the Change, $8.95 per month waived when deposits & withdrawal are made electronically or at ATMs and choose paperless statement
- MyAccess Checking account - $25 minimum initial deposit, no minimum balance, $8.95 monthly service charge waived with direct deposit or $1,500 account balance
- Prima with Tiered Interest Checking Account - $100 minimum initial deposit, no minimum balance, earn interest, other bank benefits, free safe deposit box, $25 monthly fee waived with $10,000 combined deposits balance or $15,000 outstanding loan / mortgage / loc balance or $15,000 combined assets in linked brokerage accounts
- Small Business Checking Bundle - $100 minimum initial deposit, no minimum balance, $8.95 or $16 monthly fee, monthly fee can be waived please refer to Bank of America website.
Debit Cards or check cards
For checking account customer, Bank of America also offers variety of Visa debit cards. BofA offers free Total Security Protection package and Photo Security for this debit cards. There are 3 main Bank of America Debit Cards
- Bank of America Debit Card – no annual fee, save more with Keep the Change
- US Airways Debit Card – $30 annual fee, earn 3,000 bonus miles after 1st purchase, 1 mile per $1 spent in US Airways, 1 mile per $2 spent in everyday purchases
- Alaska Airlines Debit Card - $30 annual fee, earn 3,000 bonus miles after 1st purchase, 1 mile per $1 spent in US Airways, 1 mile per $2 spent in everyday purchases
There are 4 main Bank of America online Savings Accounts:
- Growth Cash Maximizer Saving Account - $10 monthly service charge waived with a Bank of America Prima with Tiered Interest Checking account or $5,000 daily balance, tiered interest rates, auto monthly transfer from checking, unlimited transaction include withdrawals or deposit or transfer, free online banking
- Regular Savings Account - $5 monthly fee waived with $25 auto transfer from checking or $300 minimum account balance, overdraft protection feature, free online banking
- Risk Free CD Account – No monthly fee, no penalty for early withdrawal, higher interest rate than savings or money market account
- Featured CD Account – No monthly service charge, higher interest, penalty for early withdrawal
Merrill Edge Brokerage Account
Similar to Banc of America Investment brokerage account, Merrill Edge inherited the same requirements on getting up to 30 commission-free equity or ETF trades per month, i.e., two conditions can be meet to qualify for the free trades:
Maintain total combined account balances of $25,000 or more in your Bank of America banking accounts (checking, savings, FDIC-insured CDs and FDIC-insured IRAs);
Maintain total combined account balances of $25,000 or more in cash balances in your Merrill Edge Brokerage self-directed or Advisory Center accounts with the Bank Deposit Accounts sweep option with your Cash Management Account (CMA) or Retirement Assets Savings Program (RASP) sweep with your IRA.
If you are not qualified for the free trades for buy stock or buy etf online, the standard commission rates for Merrill Lynch Edge can be divided into 3 classes:
- Standard: $8.95 per trade for account balance up to $250,000, or trade 0 – 29 transactions per quarter either buying or selling stock / ETF /CEF.
- Preferred: $6.95 per trade for account balance between $250,000 and $1 million, or make 30 - 60 trades / quarter.
- Superior: $4.95 per trade for account balance above $1 million, or make 60+ trades / quarter.
For options trading, there’s an additional cost of $0.75 per contract.
Other Commission fees
- Market Orders: $8.95 per trade
- Limit Orders: $8.95 per trade
- ETF Orders: $8.95 per trade
- Auto Phone Orders: $32.50 per trade
- Broker-Assisted Orders: $75.00 per trade
- Mutual Funds: $0.00 for NTF funds with Short Term Redemption fee
- Options: $8.95/trade + $0.75/contract
- Account maintenance fee:$25.00 per quarter
- ACAT Out: $95.00.
Note: ETF is Exchange Traded Fund, CEF is Closed End Fund.
Bank of America Credit Cards
Bank of America is known with its wide selection of credit cards. It also has FIA card services division which is part of MNBA. The following is the well known credit cards by Bank of America:
- BankAmericard: BankAmericard Power Rewards Visa Signature Card (no annual fee, $50 sign up bonus)
- Basic Credit Cards: BankAmericard Visa Card (No annual fee)
- Secured Credit Card: BankAmericard Visa Fully Secured Card ($39 annual fee, deposit $300-$10,000 for credit line)
- Rewards and Cash Back credit card: Bank of America Accelerated Rewards American Express Card ($0 annual fee, 1.25 points per $1 spent), Virgin Atlantic American Express Card from Bank of America ($90 per year, Bonus 20,000 miles after 1st purchase), Royal Caribbean Visa Credit Card (no annual fee, 2 Royal Points per $1 spent in Royal Carabbean international purchases),
- Sport Cards: Nascar RacePoints Platinum Plus Visa Credit Card ($0 annual fee, 1 point per $1 spent)
- Student Cards: Bank of America Student Platinum Plus Visa Credit Card (no annual fee, great for building credit history)
I have a great experience using Bank of America. Whenever I moved, I always find a local branch nearby. The following is my experience of different services:
I opened my checking account online. I have used this account for the past 8 years. There are 2 basic free checking accounts such as ebanking checking account and myAccess checking. I have the MyAccess checking which is offered free of charge with direct deposit or $1,500 average daily balance. New customer can apply an individual online banking account through online or local bank. The online application can be completed after filling the form. You will need the following:
- Social Security number
- current residential address
- e-mail address
- Your account number or debit card number to make your opening deposit into your new Bank of America account
- Co-applicant's personal information (if applicable)
- For existing customers, you will need to provide your current Online Banking ID and Passcode
The application process will take 7-10 business days. Bank of America will send your account document through US mail. The application should be process within 1-2 days after completion. If you need to open a bank account earlier, you can go to the local branch. New customer can deposit to the bank account by transferring some funds from other bank.
I also have the online account with BofA. One of the features I like is its Bill Pay service. I can use Bill Pay to pay various bills such as credit card, cell phone account, electric utility and more. I also can check my account balance easily by login into the Bank of America website, www.bankofamerica.com or www.bofa.com.
By using Bank of America online banking, customers can access various banking activities such as:
- Handle and track financial transactions online
- View and print account statements (up to 12 months)
- Transfer funds between accounts or other bank accounts as well as wire transfer
- Manage credit cards and debit card account
- Revise and change personal contact information such as address and email info
- Access account at anytime and anywhere
- Check accounts for any suspicious financial activity
- Pay bills online or through mobile banking using iphone, blackberry, android, etc
- Contact bank customer service or representative (online or phone)
- Provide demo or video on online banking
- View certificate of deposits (CD) account history.
- Check various currency rates
- Track your net worth such as 401(K), frequent flyer miles and more from other institutions
I like bank of America credit cards especially FIA Fidelity American Express credit card. This credit card pays 2% cashback for any purchases. I have been using this credit card for my everyday purchase such as grocery, gas, restaurant, hotel etc.
I would recommend Bank of America as one of your bank service. Bank of America is one of the biggest banks in America. The confidence investor can do well with the bank’s product and service. Bank of America also offers a personal checking account with the Keep the Change. This product may provide additional earning for customer more than interest from the account. As for the savings accounts and CD accounts, one might want to look to other online banking services which offer high yield interest rate such as Redneck bank, Ally bank, EmigrantDirect bank and many more. Bank of America does offer competitive rate for CD and it is above the national average; however, let’s not get too excited since the rate is far below the top ten rates offered.
It appears that Bank of America tries to make up for its low APY rates by offering lots of products and incentives. It also offers a very competitive cashback reward credit card though FIA card services such as FIA Fidelity American Express credit card. This credit card pays 2% cashback for any purchases. If you are just starting to build your savings, these programs can be of great benefit to you; however, if you already have high deposits, there are lots of other online banks that offer a much better return on your deposited funds. One of the benefits with high balance funds in Bank of America is getting the 30 free trades per month in Merrill Edge. If customer has a $25,000 average balance in Bank of America account (saving, checking or CD), customer may qualify for 30 free trades per month using Merrill Edge. Customer can also qualify these free trades, if he/she has $25,000 money market balance in his/her Merrill Edge brokerage account.
Updated on 3/17/2011
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